Monday, November 17, 2008

Wow, we've got labels!

I've been blogging on and off for more than four years. When I started, Blogger did not have tags or labels for posts. I really don't know when they enabled that feature but I've finally caught on that they've got it and I'm getting on board.

I know my blog is all over the place subject-wise. I am slowly labeling my posts, but please be patient with me. I have 334 posts and it's slow going for me. The numbers may be changing rapidly as I add labels (because goodness knows I don't post with regularity).

Of course, the worst part of the labeling process is deciding on the labels. Right now, I'm trying to stick with pretty broad categories, so "homeschooling" includes my philosophical thoughts on homeschooling as well as knitty gritty booklists and how we do things around here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Allergen Labeling - Open Comment Period

I was reading on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) that there is currently an open comment period for The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).

The FAAN website has a lot of information about this law, what it does and does not do. My attempt to summarize it is to say that it requires plain notice of whether a packaged item contains one of the top 8 allergens. What is does not require is what is known as "advisory labeling" which indicates whether the product was made in a shared facility or on shared equipment. This is important information for the food allergic because even trace amounts of an allergen (which could result from being processed on shared equipment or in a shared facility) can cause a severe reaction in some people.

FAAN says:
On September 16, 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing on the use of advisory (“May Contain”) labeling on packaged food items. FDA has begun to develop a long-term strategy to help manufacturers use these statements in a clear and consistent manner, so that food-allergic consumers and their caregivers can be adequately informed as to the potential presence of major allergens.

Even though the hearing is over, the FDA is still accepting comments on this issue, so if you have an opinion, please share it with them.

FAAN has a FAQ section regarding this law and in this, state:

Will products after January 2006 have to label if the product is made on the same lines as peanuts or other allergens or remove the need for “May Contain” statements?

No. FALCPA does not establish standards for the use of “May contain ” or other advisory labeling statements or address the use of shared lines. FALCPA does, however, require the FDA to issue a report to Congress on this issue.

So if I'm understanding this correctly, the comments being solicited now will become a part of a report to determine whether and what action should be taken on the issue of advisory labeling.

FAAN notes:
FDA will be accepting written public comments on this issue until January 14, 2009. If you’d like to send comments to the FDA on this important issue, send an email to for instructions.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Accommodations May Not Be Enough for Peanut Allergy

I was reading Peanut Free Mama and she excerpted and linked an excellent post on Rocks In My Dryer. The author of the post has her own blog, Gravity of Motion. Her post expresses a lot of my concerns and feelings.

Jane Anne addresses a concern I've had recently when she writes:

I appreciate efforts by friends and family to keep David safe. There are times when I know that people have tried to avoid peanut products but I still don’t feel comfortable letting David eat the food. Without knowing the ingredients first-hand, I cannot trust that an item does not contain nuts or contain a product that has a peanut warning. I am gracious and appreciative but I cannot take any chances.

I've recently come to realize that the sincere accomodations made for my daughter may not be enough - especially in the case of cake or other baked goods. For instance, I recently learned (by reading the bag) that Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels are made in a facility that also processes peanuts. My daughter can't have them, it's not worth the risk. Hershey's also makes semi-sweet chips and they say "In instances where we have a concern about possible crossover by an allergen we take the added precaution of including an allergy information statement on the label." Well, I'm not sure I'm willing to take that risk and common sense tells me that they also make the Reese's Peanut Butter chips, so there could be a potential mistake on the line or an accidental failure to label (FAAN sends allergy alerts all the time for accidental content, I haven't seen one for Hershey's but I see it as a potential risk that is not worth it given the severity of my daughter's allergy. Other moms might make a different decision). So, we'll have to pass on anything with chocolate chips. I recently purchased several packages of chocolate chips from Vermont Nut-Free because of this concern but I certainly don't expect anyone else to go to that level of planning, expense, or trouble.

I'm also aware that until I became aware of my daughter's allergies (and for some time even after that), I was clueless about cross-contamination issues. I've read plenty of stories since then about knives that were wiped clean after making peanut butter sandwiches and then later used to cut apart "peanut-free" items (or dipped into jelly jars). It can happen, but I'm not sure a parent whose child doesn't have food allergies would even think of it (I wouldn't have). My daughter's last allergic reaction (which landed her in the ER for several hours) was to a bakery cookie. So even if I'm told that a baked good contains no peanuts, I'm still probably not going to allow my daughter to eat it.

I share Jane Anne's plea as she writes:

Please be understanding if you try to make something allergen free and the allergic person is still not comfortable eating the item. Above all, an allergic person has to be safe and cannot take risks.

I want you to understand that we do not want to inconvenience anyone; we only want to protect our child.

My thoughts exactly. I don't want to insult anyone, but it boils down to the simplicity of NOT eating an item verses risking that my daughter will have an anaphylatic reaction. It might seem sad that she cannot partake, but it would be much sadder for her to have to leave the party, vomitting constantly, get a shot in the leg, and go to the ER, where she will have to stay for 4 hours so they can be sure her reaction is not biphasic (and that's the best case scenario on her reaction. I've read enough worst case scenarios to not want to discuss it).

Dr. Wood shares his own story about breaking his "no cookie rule" which resulted in a severe allergic reaction.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yeah, yeah, history in the Making - Tell Me About the Dress!

Like many others, I am really excited about the election results. I'm not politically active (I vote, but don't do much more than that) and I don't follow much political news. I was not watching the elections results come in over the evening (but my DH was, leaving the room frequently during Iron Man to find out the status) - really, we will know by the morning, what difference does it make?

But, I saw this picture on the front page and the foremost question in my mind is - tell me about that dress! I love it in itself - the boldness of the black and red blending, the criss-cross satin sash (calling to my mind a certain shrug I recently finished). I also love it because it has the colors of the dresses the daughters are wearing (and who doesn't love the mother of two daughters?)

It's an exciting era and though I was initially seduced by Palin's hair, I'm pretty excited about Michelle's clothes.